Taylor urges ECOWAS to arrange talks with LURD

The Liberian government has asked ECOWAS to help
arrange peace talks between the state and rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), officials told IRIN in the capital, Monrovia, on Tuesday.

The request was made by President Charles Taylor during discussions on Monday in Monrovia with ECOWAS Chairman Abdoulaye Wade, who is also Senegal's president. The two heads of state talked about various options that Liberia wishes ECOWAS to take to initiate peace talks with LURD, Jeff Mutada, assistant minister for information, told IRIN.

A communique read by Liberia's Foreign Minister, Monie Captan, following Monday's closed meeting said Taylor told Wade his
government was "ready and willing to pursue dialogue for the peaceful settlement of war in the country".

Taylor called for an end "to all external support that is fuelling the war", according to the communique. The two leaders also discussed "the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, the recently established international contact group on Liberia" and the peace process in the Mano River area, which comprises Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Humanitarian sources said Liberia wanted the war to end to allow for peaceful presidential, parliamentary and chieftaincy elections that are slated for late next year. On Monday, Taylor reaffirmed that the elections would take place as scheduled, local media reported.

The chairman of the Elections Commission, Paul Guah, told journalists on Tuesday he had submitted an US$11-million budget to the government for the elections. He appealed to government to fund it.

LURD has been fighting to topple Taylor since 1998. This has led to massive displacement of people in the northern and eastern parts of the country and caused insecurity in other areas.